Saif Gadaffhi, plagiarist - UPDATED

Saif Gadaffhi's not just the scion of a lunatic dictatorial legacy, and not just the ironic recipient of a PhD from the London School of Economics in 'The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions' -- he's also a plagiarist!

An anonymous source at the LSE sez, "There appears to be some *at least* minor plagiarism in this thesis. If you look at the bottom of p45 there is a passage that goes: 'The expansions of the IMF's membership, together with the changes in the world economy, have required the IMF to adapt in a variety of ways to continue serving its purposes effectively'. If you plug this sentence into Google you get a link to the IMF Wikipedia page. I caught this within 60 seconds of opening the thesis. There's one more I found a page later. I tried twice with a hit rate of two out of two. Readers may want to look for more. My impression is the thesis is generally OK - the plagiarism may only be limited to boilerplate factoid stuff like this on the IMF. But it would be good to alert readers to comb through it using Google."

Consider yourselves alerted.

Update: Here we are, a Wiki to track instances of plagiarism in Junior's homework (Tx, Wheezer!)



    1. Funny how when a “good” person copies it’s called a mashup, remix or tribute, but when a “bad” person copies it’s called plagiarism, stealing or piracy.

  1. I really don’t think he’s a plagiarist. He’s more the victim of a sloppy dissertation-for-pay writer. To expect the multi-millionaire son of a crazy dictator to go to the interwebs and cut and paste a bunch of stuff into a semi-coherent argument is to expect too much.

  2. I, for one, would be tickled to see the headline

    “Gadaffhi Son On Trial for War Crimes, Plagiarism”

  3. so his course tutor wasn’t checking his thesis and his university didn’t check it either?

    I’m not too keen on what this appears to suggest – over to you LSE.

  4. to be a bit more positive in headline building
    “Gadaffhi son scores second best in plagiarism contest”

  5. Hmm. Yeah, from his armchair TV chat, the guy seems like a jerk, but there is a deeper issue to explore here..
    Language fluency requires multiple I/O coherency. Not easy or simple.

    For people whose mother tongue is NOT english, it is generally much more difficult to write English well, than to read it. I have come across many ‘foreign’ [= non native english speakers] students, Koreans in USA, or French people in France, for example, who could understand English text, and think well, but found it incredibly slow and painful to form correct written english sentences on their own.

    And even if modifying slightly paragraphs from their reading research, would soon draft bizarre awkward ESL idioms. There is superhuman effort now raging across the planet to learn English well. In Asia especially, this is considered an essential professional skill. But for anyone over the age of 35 it is very rare to find fluency. And where you do, it rarely extends to writing. On the other hand, while unable to carry on even a simple conversation, the same people can read technical docs, do computer programming whose docs are only in English.

    Some countries naturally have brilliant English skills – northern Europeans in particular. 12 years ago I worked in web research projects in Europe where Germans partners wrote better english than the English technicians. At the same table, the Italian PhDs could barely form a coherent English sentence.

  6. Holy crap, this could be a masterwork of ironic satire, or maybe just a big “I hate you dad, you don’t understand me” emo-rant, done in style. Libya is different from Egypt and Tunisia precisely because the Gadaffhi state has repressed ‘civil society’ while aggressively promoting a role for the state/leader in typically ‘civil’ organisations. In Egypt, civil society can function independently of the government, and can form the basis for a reasonable government to be created.

    Saif’s thesis actually argues for neoliberal intervention in dictatorships, even ‘decent’ non-expansionist dictatorships that are accepted as legitimate by their own people. Read pages 237-239 for this.

    I have to quote these two gems:

    p.237:”The global problem of violence needs to be fought not just on the ideological front[…] but also by challenging conflicts and those states that continue to use military force as the sole way to resolve problems that tend not to be solved by simply sending in an army.”

    p.239: “I argue that decent regimes may indeed be rational, but cannot be considered reasonable, and so do not permit essential elements of the three strands of justice as fairness; those of fairness, freedom and equality. So instead of the toleration that Rawls prescribes towards states where regimes do not allow certain freedoms but maintain a veneer of political legitimacy, this thesis proposes that such regimes could become legitimate targets for intervention because of the violation of basic human rights implied in the denial of such freedoms as voting or free speech”

    The thesis might actually be okay, if you forgive the boilerplate plagiarism. I’m not expert enough to know how it compares to a typical thesis, or to know if the ‘meat’ of the thesis is plagiarised.

    1. The sin of plagiarism is less mechanical to my way of thinking: the guilt of the offense is the theft of another’s IDEA without attribution; to claim that a naked statement of FACT is being “plagiarized” merely because the same words are used goes a little too far – that case seems more like a failure of attribution, rather than a case of plagiarism per se. More akin to repeating a statement of the current temperature outside
      without stating that one heard it in a weather report, rather than the claiming of an other’s original expression as one ‘s own work.

      But for the ease of the mechanical detection of unattributed un-original statements, the use of “boilerplate” statements of factual circumstance simply would not rise to the level of original thought which is required for something to be capable of actual plagiarism.

      It’s really only a case of sloppy or incomplete footnoting, if the “plagiarism” is constituted of simply an un-attributed statement of fact, without more.

      Can one plagiarize the bare lists of a telephone directory?

  7. Well, I’ll tell you one thing … if that man’s resume ever comes across MY desk, he’s got some big-time explaining to do.

  8. But my comments are just for general thinking: those who must enforce against actual attempts at plagiarism do well IMHO to take a stricter view of things.

    People really ought to take care to note their sources.

    1. And they do: I’ve seen undergrads sent to Academic Hearings for sloppy and/or incomplete citations. It’s the academic equivalent of a moral panic.

  9. Did anyone check the dates on the wikipedia entry and confirm that they came BEFORE the thesis? It occurs to me that it would be really easy to frame someone for plagiarism by copying stuff into wikipedia. I mean, I don’t like the guy, but let’s do our due diligence here.

  10. I use iThenticate at my journal, so I fed this in. Got a score of 38% similar to other sources, which is a slightly higher score than I’ve ever seen, but the matches look more like sloppy sourcing and a failure to report simple facts using one’s own grammatical construction.

    This quick perusal is nothing like what we would give a real paper, but I would call this original work. It’s novelty is certainly suspect, but I think calling it plagiarism is a stretch.

  11. I don’t think you have a smoking gun here. Lets slam him for being a psychopath, but the sentence you have him plagiarizing is just a transitional sentence and doesn’t have any real information in it. Also what are the chances that a generic sentence will be identical to another one when compared to all the information google has at its finger tips, it is astronomical considering the odds of arranging the letters randomly, but this is on a subject with a limited amount of key words. Also how do you know wikipedia didn’t plagiarize him.

    1. Gavintree, if you look at the latest updates on the linked wiki, we’re not just talking a sentence here and there. There are whole paragraphs copied with only minor changes or no changes at all.

      If this was submitted to me as a PhD examiner, I would refer it immediately as academic misconduct (as I have done in a similar case very recently).

      Also, only one example is from wikipedia. The others are from books and publications (e.g. from the World Bank).

  12. “the sentence you have him plagiarizing is just a transitional sentence and doesn’t have any real information in it”

    I agree. I hope that doesn’t mean that I’m a plagarist.

    Considering the insignificance of the particular statement, I suppose I’m surprised that anyone noticed it at all.

    E = m (c ** 2), it’s not.

  13. Some profs at my Canadian university require students to submit papers to If you submit Gadaffhi’s paper to this service (or a similar one) you’ll harness the power of a service designed to tell you exactly what was taken from where. Try it!

    1. Be careful with turnitin, Anon – don’t be surprised if it returns a 100% match for this now. It compares submitted work against various sources, but also previously submitted work (which this now is, since somebody above has already tried it).

      Whether or not universities should be letting a third-party indefinitely store copies of all submitted student work is another question altogether…

  14. “Saif Gadaffhi’s not just the scion of a lunatic dictatorial legacy, and not just the ironic recipient of a PhD from the London School of Economics in ‘The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions’ — he’s also a plagiarist!” (Doctrow, 2011)

    Less than 20 letters are the difference between plagiarism and proper writing.

    I’ve seen papers that got a 0, because they left out those 20 letters.

Comments are closed.